The real baccalà alla vicentina

A wood stove, one with those heavy doors to be opened when the temperature starts dropping a little and to be filled with pieces of wood cut to size. 

The boiling iron top, marked by incandescent grooves where a terracotta casserole lays with a slightly burnt bottom ruined by time and use. The lid does not let you glimpse what is "peeping" inside, but any local would be able to guess based on the aroma spreading in the air. For someone it’s a bad smell, for others it is the opposite. Coldfish can be only be cooked slowly and with all due respect, the house will give up and be impregnated with it. 

Cod is dried stockfish from the Lofoten Islands. Its way of being fished and treatment is a centuries-old tradition. The consistency is rough and dug by dehydration, perfectly preserved for long periods, a meat that once rehydrated does not look like fish anymore but rather a slice of meat with a strong flavour.

The baccalà, as we call it here in Veneto, arrived in Venice centuries ago when there were no fridges. I like to think that it first got here thanks to some acts of respect and devotion to Querini, a venetian man who shipwrecked in Rost Isle where he stayed for a while, before leaving the island he was honoured with some stockfishes to support his men during the long journey home.  

Chef Chemello from the “La trattoria di Palmerino” told me this story, he actually did that same trip for the love of “bacalà”.

I have visited his restaurant for a few hours and his knowledge and devotion for this fish amazed me. He is a member of the Venerabile Confraternita del Baccalà, an organism for promoting the tradition of  the true Vicenza-style cod through its passion and love, he kindly gave us many tips for perfectly succeeding with this dish.

The dried codfish is flash-frozen to soften the pulp’s fibers, then immediately soaked into cold water in a constant recirculation for several days, until it is completely rehydrated. It is then cleaned very carefully, cut in medium-size pieces, sprinkled with flour and seasoned with onion dried in oil, parsley, Grana Padano and a little salt and pepper.

Now that it is flavored, roll each piece up on itself to keep every aroma on the inside, then place it in a terracotta casserole and covered with milk and oil. The cooking time may change according to the size of the casserole of course, but at least it will definitely need a couple of hours. 

The recipe is encoded and can be found here, at their website. It is very important to keep in mind that the only possible side dish is the yellow soft polenta: a comforting and satisfying plate, the bread for poor which is never missing on the Venetian tables.

We can say it is quite easy to make the baccalà alla vicentina, but it takes a long time of preparation if you start with the whole product still dried. The quality of the product affects a lot on its success: my grandmother gets angry when the baccalà cooked "turns red", meaning that it does not keep the meat white, and she blames the quality. On this occasion I realized that also a correct cooking has a great impact, but don’t tell it to my grandmother, she is just so happy when she sees that everybody enjoys it, no matter if it is red or white. 

La trattoria di Palmerino


Via Piave 13, Sandrigo (Vicenza)


0444 659034

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